Facing a team that his squad lost to twice last season, Grain Valley baseball coach Brian Driskell needed one of his seniors to take over.
Enter Garrett Morrow.
The senior, who considered himself a strikeout pitcher earlier in his career, pitched to contact against Pleasant Hill Monday and got the desired result. He didn’t dominate, but he didn’t need to in a 7-3 home victory over the Roosters in a Missouri River Valley Conference West contest.
“I had this game circled on the calendar because they beat us twice last year,” Driskell said. “This was a big win.”
Throughout most of the game, Morrow’s uniform was stained from about his mid-torso to about ankle high. He did it all for the Eagles (10-3, 4-0). He singled and drove in a run at the plate and pitched a complete game, allowing just one earned run on three hits and struck out two.
“Garrett threw amazing today,” said Eagles catcher Kyle Clark. “He used his changeup for a couple of strikeouts and we jammed them inside.”
The pitch-to-contact style has been something that Morrow has adopted recently. Now, he said he slows his routine down and allows for his herky-jerky throwing motion to create deception to opposing hitters.
During every delivery he turns to his left, keeps his glove chest high, then rears back and cocks the ball behind his back and slings the pitch across his body.
“Sometimes I get ahead of myself where it gets out of hand,” said Morrow of his thowing motion, which is similar to Boston Red Sox star pitcher Chris Sale. “Sometimes I work myself up. Sometimes I have people in the dugout tell me to stay tall and slow.
“My delivery is unique, kind of like the (Yordano) Ventura leg kick or like a Chris Sale. Sometimes when you’re throwing at a 100 percent, your body just goes wherever. My freshman and sophmore season I was more of a strikeout pitcher. This year I am more of a pop-fly, ground-ball pitcher.”
It was effective as Pleasant Hill didn’t have many hard hit balls Monday. The Roosters scored all three runs in the fourth thanks to two errors and an RBI single from Jackson Barnes. Other than that frame, Morrow stymied them.
“Late in the game we made a few defensive mistakes and Garrett was able to get us out of jams,” Driskell said. “He was mentally tough today. I was a little concerned after he struggled in one inning and came in the next emotionally high. He pretty much led the team today and got on guys when they weren’t focused mentally. I let him take control.
“It’s hard to get under his skin. I try to in practice but I never can do it. He does a really good job in tough situations.”
It helped that he got a big assist on defense in the fifth. With runners at second and first with one out, Jordan Smith hit a high infield pop-up to first base. Eagles first baseman Caleb Walker lost the ball in the sun but second baseman Mickey Simpson was able to range over and make a diving catch and make a throw to second base for a double play.
“He’s not particularly fast,” Driskell said of Simpson. “He’s not a fast runner at all. He would laugh if someone said he was fast. It stayed up high enough and he made a great effort. That’s a sign of a kid who’s struggling at the plate to help his team in some other facet.”
On offense, Grain Valley took advantage of some shoddy defense by the Roosters. The team batted around the lineup in the first. Two of Grain Valley’s fielder’s choice grounders resulted in everyone being safe.
Mitch Chapman beat a throw home for the first run on a grounder from Caleb Walker. Clark hit a ground ball that resulted in an error and scored Tate Collum, and Morrow stroked an RBI single to center for a 3-0 lead.
Clark drilled an RBI double to left-center and an infield error made it 5-0 after two innings.
The Eagles scored two in the sixth off a throwing error. A sacrifice fly from Dalton Egelston capped the scoring.
“Our offense was good throughout the first four (innings),” Clark said. “Coach came in and said, ‘This is where we struggle a little bit, so we got to keep it up (hitting well).’ I thought we did a good job getting back up and scoring two runs late. It’s huge against a team like this.”